Given the alarming implications for democracy and security of the take-over of Twitter by U.S. billionaire Elon Musk, Defend Democracy has sent an urgent letter to the Presidents of the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament. The letter, sent to the European institutions on Sunday 30 October 2022, has been signed by 12 European civil society organisations so far, and is open for other European CSOs to sign on.
As civil society organisations committed to supporting, strengthening and defending democracy, we have three key concerns about the take-over of Twitter:
- the implications for global security
- the implications for online standards and safeguards
- the implications for data security and privacy
We therefore call on the European institutions to launch an urgent security and regulatory review of the take-over. We demand urgent and adequate measures to protect European citizens, democracy and security from its harmful implications.
Here is the full letter:
Dear Presidents of the EU Commission, Council and Parliament,
According to media reports, US billionaire Elon Musk has completed his deal to take full control of Twitter.
As civil society organisations committed to supporting, strengthening and defending democracy, we believe this is a major cause for concern, for three main reasons.
First, because of the implications of such a deal for global security. In recent weeks Mr. Musk has openly questioned the territorial integrity of Ukraine. He has actively pushed some of the false narratives on Ukraine being peddled by Putin and his henchmen. He engaged in friendly online banter with former Russian President Medvedev, even as Russian missiles were raining down on civilian targets and energy and transport infrastructure in Ukraine. His Starlink internet service mysteriously stopped functioning over parts of Ukraine where the Ukrainian army was making headway against the Russian occupation forces. He then threatened to pull the plug on Starlink in Ukraine altogether. Subsequently, he publicly sided with China, where he has substantial economic interests, by suggesting that Beijing should be handed some control over Taiwan.
Second, because of the implications for online standards and safeguards. Mr. Musk has announced that he plans to fire 75% of Twitter staff. According to media reports, he has already fired the CEO, the CFO and the Head of Legal Policy, Trust and Safety – the person thought to be responsible for banning former US President Trump. He has said that he will unban Mr. Trump and other currently banned accounts. Mr. Musk has called himself a “free speech absolutist”. The announcement of major staff cuts, the lifting of account bans and the rejection of content moderation is directly contrary to the letter and spirit of new EU legislation adopted earlier this year that seeks to make big tech companies take greater responsibility for hate speech and disinformation on their platforms.
Third, because of the implications for the data security and privacy of EU citizens and citizens globally. Given Musk’s apparent closeness to a number of repressive regimes, and given his dismissive attitude to enforcing applicable legislation on a range of public policies, we are concerned that the data of EU citizens and of citizens globally, including those living in repressive regimes, are not safe in his hands. This could impact the work and lives of democratic politicians, human rights activists, democracy defenders, journalists, lawyers, disinformation experts, minorities and ordinary citizens everywhere.
We therefore urge you to undertake an urgent security and regulatory review of this takeover and to take all possible steps to seek to block it.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Alice Stollmeyer, on behalf of Defend Democracy
Co-signed by the following organisations:
- Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
- Fair Vote UK
- KaskoSan Roma Charity
- Lie Detectors
- ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association
- Open Britain
- Stop Funding Heat
- Transparency International EU
- Waag Futurelab
A PDF of the original letter can be viewed here.